The six best jazz shows in April

BRAD MEHDLAU TRIO @ BOULDER THEATER, SUN, 4/6 Over the last two decades pianists Brad Mehldau has recorded and performed in various formats (his latest effort, Mehliana: Taming the Dragon, is a duo recording with drummer Mark Guiliana), but he seems most at home with his trio, which includes long-time bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard, who's been with Mehldau for almost a ten years. Any of the pianist's live recordings, including The Art of the Trio volumes or Live in Tokyo, confirm Mehldau's intuitive and proficient playing in the live setting.

KNEEBODY @ DAZZLE, MON. 4/7 Kneebody has had many labels thrown at it, but none seem to fit. Just the same, the members of the transcontinental quintet (saxophonist Ben Wendel, keyboardist Adam Benjamin, drummer Nate Wood and Denver natives, trumpeter Shane Endsley and bassist Kaveh Rastegar) haven't exactly gone out of their way to make it easy for folks to pin down their shapeshifting sound, which is rooted in jazz, funk and rock. The Line, the band's first release on the mini-major imprint Concord, is exceptionally ambitious in scope while also being the best sounding disc the band has released, and the quintet is in superb form on the disc.

TIGRAN @ THE ORIENTAL THEATER FRI. 4/18 Although jazz pianist Tigran Hamasyan, who's just going by his first name these days, is only in his mid-twenties, he already has more than two decades of playing under his belt. Having started on piano at the age of three, he was already playing festivals by the time he was thirteen. With a technical proficiency of someone much older, the virtuosic pianist won the 2006 Thelonious Monk Piano Competition, in addition to winning several other awards over the past decade. On his daring new album, Shadow Theater, slated for release on April 15, Tigran showcases his affinity for Armenian folk music while also delving into prog rock, electronica and a whole lot more.

THE UNC/GREELEY JAZZ FESTIVAL THU., 4/24 - SAT. 4/26 For over four decades, the University of Northern Colorado has been hosting the UNC/Greeley Jazz Festival, which has become the largest of its kind in the nation. While this year's headliners, including the Wayne Shorter Quartet, Christian McBride and the Swingle Singers are reason enough to make the one-hour drive north to Greeley from Denver, there will also be more than 250 college, high school and middle school big bands, combos and jazz vocal groups from around the country.

JOE LOVANO US FIVE @ DAZZLE, SAT. AND SUN. 4/26-27 Grammy-nominated saxophonist Joe Lovano has performed and recorded in many different formats over his storied four-decade long career, but for this two-night stand at Dazzle he's bringing the Us Five group that includes pianist James Weidman, bassist Peter Slavov and drummers Francisco Mela and Otis Brown III. The group released its third album, Cross Culture, last year on Blue Note. Lovano is no doubt a masterful improviser so expect some fiery playing that incorporates worldly elements from him and the rest of the group.

THE BAD PLUS @ DAZZLE TUES. & WEDS. 4/29-30 Over the past dozen years, the Bad Plus has established itself as one of the most daring jazz trios in the world. And in that time, pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King have proved they can easily maneuver through hard-hitting energetic songs, tone it down on ballads or turn other folks' songs inside out and make them their own. While primarily an acoustic trio, the Bad Plus lays down layers of synths and electronic drum sounds on the 2012's Made Possible. On the its latest effort, the trio tackles Igor Stravinsky's insanely complex ballet, The Rite Of Spring.

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Jon Solomon writes about music and nightlife for Westword, where he's been the Clubs Editor since 2006.
Contact: Jon Solomon